Gregor and the Code of Claw is the fifth and final book in the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. It was published in 2007 by Scholastic.
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
“Everyone has been trying to keep Gregor from seeing the final prophecy, The Prophecy of Time. It says something awful, but Gregor never imagined just how awful: It calls for the warrior’s death. The warrior being Gregor, of course.
Now, an army of rats is quickly approaching and Gregor’s mom and his little sister, Boots, are still in Regalia. In spite of the terrifying prophecy, Gregor must gather up his courage to defend Regalia and get his family back home safely. The entire existence of the Underland is in Gregor’s hands and time is running out. There is a code that must be cracked, a new princess to contend with, Gregor’s burgeoning dark side, and a war designed to end all wars.”
That was the cruelest thing Solovet had done to him, cut him off from the world. How could she do it? How could no one notice he was gone? It had been hours now, maybe days. Didn’t anyone even care where he was? Suddenly he was so upset he had to bite his lip so he didn’t start screaming.
And then something happened that changed his entire perception of the world. Gregor coughed. It was just a small cough. But the instant it left his mouth, it was as if lightning had struck the room. He could see! Okay, not see exactly, because it was still dark in his cell. But he could tell with absolute certainty the proximity of the wall across from him. It was almost as if a picture of it appeared in his head.
And this was how Ripred found them as he swept into the room. “What’s going on in here?” His nose was twitching, clearly registering the lingering throw-up smell. Then his eyes landed on Lizzie, and he became still, too, except for the tip of his tail, which twitched from side to side. An expression came over his face that Gregor had never seen before. If he had to put a name to it, Gregor would have called it tenderness. The rat’s voice became positively gentle. “I didn’t know we had company. But I bet I can guess who you are. You’re Lizzie, aren’t you?”
Warnings: Violence, death
Recommended Age Range: 12+
What I Liked:
Wow, what a war-filled, battle-heavy book. It’s funny, when you think about it, how similar The Hunger Games and The Underland Chronicles are. They’re both messages about war and hatred, and how war changes people, just told in different ways for different audiences. Collins is clearly trying to say that working together, setting aside past hatreds, and getting along are much better than fighting, which is a message that everybody wants to hear but not a lot of people follow. Probably because nobody likes to think that they’re wrong.
Ripred, the revelations about you in this book only made me like you more. Also, Lizzie, you’re awesome, too. And Luxa, you actually learned something! Way to go, girl! Gregor…you had your stupid moments (like the whole thing with Ripred’s puzzle…that was just wince-worthy. Sorry, Gregor), but you had your awesome ones, as well. And, props for getting that echolocation down finally (as unrealistic as it is, but hey, it’s fantasy).
I feel like Solovet was the real villain of the series. The Bane was just a maniac. Solovet was arguably scarier, because her cold, ruthless manipulation (and the short revelations about what she did to Hamnet, her son) was terrible. And it caused her soldiers to be cold and ruthless.
What I Didn’t Like:
That ending was really bittersweet. Hopeful, but bittersweet. And, unfortunately, extremely unsatisfying. The message about war at the end was preachy and unnecessary, and the fact that we know nothing about what Gregor’s family will do makes everything seem unfinished. Are they leaving or aren’t they? The whole point of saying goodbye to the Underground was because they were moving to Virginia, but if they’re not, then what was the point? It would have been better to end it with the family moving, to signify a transition. But to not do that means that the end is stuck in a sort of limbo, moving neither forward nor backward.
My main issue with the series: Gregor and Luxa. Sorry, but twelve-year-olds getting together is not something I want to read about. Twelve-year-olds have no business dating; they have plenty to deal with already without worrying about that. It needlessly complicates relationships and personal lives. Have they even hit puberty yet? Do they even know the full meaning and impact of the words “I love you?” Do they fully, completely understand what romantic love is? How can they, when adults don’t even understand it, or show it, or live it out? Now, I’m not saying that Gregor doesn’t, or shouldn’t, or can’t care about Luxa because of his age. I’m objecting to the nature of their relationship, not the fact that they have one in the first place. And it doesn’t matter if they “seem much older than they are” or whatever. They aren’t older than they are. I’m sorry, but twelve-year-olds in a relationship is not sweet, or cute, or endearing. It’s sad. It’s sad that a “me-first, do-whatever-you-want, live-while-you’re young” message is being shown. Sorry, Collins. I like your books, but I think you made a mistake with this one.
Gregor and the Code of Claw delivers on action and character development. The conclusion to the Underground is satisfactory, but Gregor and his family’s ending is not. Their fate is left up in the air, leaving one to wonder if Gregor will just angst about the war and preach peace and love until the end of his days (sorry about the sarcasm, but it did get a little overbearing at the end). Also, Gregor and Luxa’s relationship makes me rage.
Coming Up Next: My wrap-up of the Underland Chronicles